U.S. government urged to lift pre-departure testing for vaccinated travellers

Posted: 3 February 2022 | | No comments yet

The U.S. government has been advised by the International Air Transport Association, Airlines for America, and key stakeholders to lift the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated passengers.

Airlines for America has released a statement welcoming the lift of pre-departure testing requirements, which will allow eager passengers to visit or return home to the U.S.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in partnership with Airlines for America (A4A) and 28 U.S. and international aviation and travel and tourism stakeholder groups, urged the U.S. government to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated air travellers flying to the U.S. 

The vaccinated traveller population adds no additional risks to the domestic U.S. population. Increased immunity levels, the pervasiveness of COVID-19 in all 50 U.S. states, rising vaccination rates, and new therapeutics, all point to removing the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said: “The experience of Omicron has made it clear that travel restrictions have little to no impact in terms of preventing its spread. Moreover, as Omicron is already broadly present across the U.S., fully vaccinated travellers bring no extra risk to the local population. International travellers should face no additional screening requirements than what is applied to domestic travel. In fact, at this stage of the pandemic, travel should be managed in the same way as access to shopping centres, restaurants, or offices.”

More than 74.3 million people, meaning at least 22 per cent of the U.S. population, have had COVID-19, and that is almost certainly an undercount owing to asymptomatic infections and limited testing early in the pandemic. When combined with an adult population that is 74 per cent fully vaccinated, it is clear that the U.S. is developing very high levels of population immunity.

The organisations also noted that the EU has recommended that its member states remove COVID-19 travel restrictions for travel within the EU, and the UK has announced the removal of COVID-19 pre-departure testing for vaccinated air travellers to enter the country. The UK concluded that the cost to both passengers and airlines of the testing mandate could no longer be justified as there was no evidence the regime protected the population from COVID-19. 

Recent research by Oxera and Edge Health in Italy, Finland, and the UK all support the conclusion that travel measures do little to control the spread of COVID-19 when it is already broadly present in the local population. The studies found that, if implemented at a very early stage, travel restrictions may at best delay the peak of a new wave by a few days and marginally reduce the number of cases.  

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Furthermore, IATA’s most recent air traveler survey showed that 62 per cent of respondents support removing a testing requirement for those who are fully vaccinated.

“Removing the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the U.S. and globally without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in the U.S. population. There is no use in closing the barn door after the horse has bolted,” added Walsh.

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